Zimbabwe?s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says the country would not be a haven for criminals under its leadership. This comes after President Robert Mugabe?s government reportedly said former Ethiopian leader Mengistu Haile Mariam will be protected in Zimbabwe despite being sentenced to death by an Ethiopian High Court. Mengistu, has lived in exile in Zimbabwe since he was overthrown in 1991, is unlikely extradited to Ethiopia to face punishment unless Mugabe loses next month?s election run-off. The Ethiopian government has however, not formally requested Mengistu to be extradited. From Harare, MDC international affairs secretary Eliphas Mukonoweshuro tells reporter Peter Clottey that the imminent MDC government would review the case of the former Ethiopian leader before taking any action.

?The position of the MDC is that it will accept people running away from other countries seeking refuge in Zimbabwe. If they are not needed by any country for crimes committed, then they would be free to stay in Zimbabwe. But Zimbabwe can never be a haven of criminals under an MDC government. If Mengistu has not committed any crime anywhere to the satisfaction of the incoming MDC government, then he has nothing to fear at all,? Mukonoweshuro pointed out.

He said the opposition party would review the case against the former Ethiopian leader to determine its next line of action.

?When the MDC comes to power, the MDC government will study the case pertaining to Mr. Mengistu. If it is satisfied that Mr. Mengistu has not committed any crime anywhere, of course, his refugee status would stand. But if Mr. Mengistu has committed crimes anywhere in any part of the world of course the MDC government would take that into consideration in deciding whether Mr. Mengistu has to remain as a guest in Zimbabwe or not,? he said.

Mukonoweshuro said it was important for the party to ascertain the full scope of the case against the former Ethiopian leader.

?We cannot prejudge the situation, and as a movement and a political party, at the present moment we do not have the facts pertaining to Mr. Mengistu?s case. But what we are saying is that the MDC government through the ministry of justice would have to study the papers, would have to convince ourselves whether or not there is a genuine case against Mr. Mengistu. And if there are no genuine cases he could stay, but if there is a genuine case, then of course the MDC government would not allow the country to become a haven for criminals who are wanted elsewhere for serious crimes,? Mukonoweshuro pointed out.

He described as ludicrous accusations by the government that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is a sellout.

?It?s very unfortunate because these are allegations, which are made without any substantiation at all. Mr. Museka?s statement did not chronicle where the MDC in particular and where the MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai has sold out to anybody. We have never been a government of this country and therefore there is no record to sustain those allegations,? he said.

Mukonoweshuro said the government is using the tactics of division to divert attention from the suffering of the masses.

?This is the tragedy in Zimbabwe. Instead of focusing on the issues that can resolve the crisis, people resort to mudslinging. It?s time that Zimbabweans, it?s time that SADC (Southern African Development Community) and Africa realize that no amount of mudslinging could ever even begin to punt in place the ingredients to resolve the crisis that has engulfed this country for the past 10 years,? Mukonoweshuro noted.